In the second NFL game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium the Carolina Panthers capitalized on 5 interceptions thrown by Jameis Winston to win in convincing fashion, 37-26. His offensive line continued its woes dating back to last week’s clash against the Saints, and the Bucs QB has been sacked 13 times as opposed to 14 in the team’s first three games.
However, Carolina’s defensive line wasn’t the only bright spot in a game that once again clarified just how much this team is capable of despite missing its starting QB since Week 3. Cam Newton’s backup – Kyle Allen – has now won each of his 4 starts and is 5-0 as a starting QB in the National Football League.
Coming up after their trip to London is a bye for the Panthers but the brief break certainly won’t be boring or uneventful. Cam Newton is reported by ESPN and other sources to be nearing his return to full practice participation. And most importantly, a very tough decision is on board for head coach Ron Rivera – in fact, a decision that could end up determining his future with the organization.
Of course, that is whether or not the Panthers should stick with Allen at QB when Newton is fully healthy. If they do, meanwhile, with rookie Will Grier clearly in developmental plans for the future of the franchise, could he end up somewhere else?
The McCaffrey effect on Allen’s workload
Christian McCaffrey’s career year certainly has had a lot do with Kyle Allen’s success. McCaffrey has rushed 127 times, more than any other running back in the NFL, and leads the league in rushing yards with 618. Through the team’s first six games, he averages 108 yards per game.
How has that made Allen’s game more effective? It has put into effect the fact that Kyle Allen is usually a very accurate passer – 65.57% – and has made it even better. That has resulted in very clean performances by the undrafted 2nd-year player out of Houston – 7-0 TD-Int ratio and the Panthers having the third-best turnover differential at +6.
Cam Newton has, despite his career-long success and winning habits, been the exact opposite of what Allen has contributed to Carolina’s four straight wins. He completed just 49.02% of his passing attempts in his last appearance (Week 2 against Tampa Bay) in addition to having thrown 10 or more picks in each of his 8 seasons in the NFL.
We’ll discuss that vastly in the next paragraph but, put in short, he’s not what the Panthers need right now to keep up their winning ways. But let’s just mention that the receiving group isn’t great either, and Allen is probably the better option in the current situation.
With the praise we gave the Panthers in their last 3 games, we need to mention that, despite an offensive style that’s supposed to work the other way around, the Panthers are just 23rd in 3rd-down conversions in that span (34.21%). Cam won’t help improve that – he could actually contribute in further decline in that field.
Do the Panthers even need a run-heavy QB?
As long as McCaffrey is the MVP-caliber performer he’s been thus far, a guy like Cam that has sacrificed accuracy in the name of the running game is exactly what the Panthers don’t need with that receiving core.
He’s had considerable success on the ground in the last two seasons, scoring 10 times, but is unlikely to get the same workload with McCaffrey in his current shape. His injury bugs could only further confirm the speculations about his demise and the end of his time in Charlotte.
Accuracy-WR core correlation
Even though Kyle Allen’s played only 4.8% of Newton’s career games, he couldn’t be more of a polar opposite to Cam, at least based on both playmakers’ performance in 2019.
DJ Moore’s had a strong campaign up to date with 12.9 yards per reception. But the next in line in the receiving box score are none other than McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. The RB has even had two more catches than Moore’s 33.
The WR core isn’t very deep. Therefore, Allen is a pretty good option to keep the passing game alive through accuracy. And if Cam doesn’t somehow make his game cleaner and more accurate, and doesn’t give that offense the 3rd-down success it’s been lacking, there’s no reason to believe he has place come the Panthers’ Week 8 visit to Levi’s Stadium and the 49ers.
Who are they better off with?
It’s pretty clear that Allen should be the Carolina quarterback even as soon as Newton’s healthy. If his production slips, than Newton is a proven option to take his spot back.
What could be more intriguing is if Allen leads the Panthers into a playoff run while Cam watches from the sidelines completely ready to take a football field. What does GM Marty Hunrey do then? Cam’s contract ends in 2021, and he’s been long rumoured to not be part of the organization’s plans after that. So, if Kyle Allen turns into a player you can rely on in the long term, it’d be a very good time to at least get something in return for Newton.